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Urban Sustainability Concentration

Student at urban sustainability expo

The Urban Sustainability concentration provides the basis for a holistic understanding of cities through the lens of environmental and social sustainability.

By combining coursework in urban studies, history, sociology, and design with the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), students in the Urban Sustainability concentration are exposed to both the environmental and infrastructural aspects of cities, as well as issues of human development, urban societies, public policy, and social equity. Students in the concentration acquire a foundation in sustainability concepts and skills for research and professional practices. The Urban Sustainability concentration helps prepare students to serve as social change agents in future roles as scholars, urban planners, designers, entrepreneurs, public servants, and advocates to address the most pressing issues of urban development and its human impacts in cities around the world.


Students in this concentration may select one of two advisors:

Special Programs and Opportunities

Students in the Urban Sustainability concentration may be interested in the Goldman Undergraduate Honors Program in Environmental Science, Technology and Policy, which aims to provide a select group of Stanford undergraduate students with a unique honors capstone experience in the area of environmental solutions, as well as the Schneider Sustainable Energy Fellowships, which places students in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to support sustainable energy development. Students interested in pursuing graduate studies may consider the Coterminal M.A./M.S. degree program in Earth Systems.

Required Course

EARTHSYS 112 Human Society and Environmental Change (4 units)                                                                                           

Additional Courses

Students must select at least one course from each of the following categories: 1) environmental sustainability, 2) social sustainability, and 3) project-based courses.  Courses in the concentration (including the required course and additional courses) must total at least 20 units. Please consult with your advisor to select a program of courses that suits your intellectual and personal goals.

For additional courses that count toward this concentration, search here.

If a course has not already been approved for a concentration, you may petition to count it by submitting this form to your advisor. 

Sample Course Plans

The inclusion of a range of sustainability-relevant skills and focus courses – e.g. policy, engineering, environmental science, urban history – offers the opportunity for each student to tailor the cumulative learning process to their own interests. A couple of few sample course plans are listed below. Please consult with an advisor to discuss potential course plans.

  1. Students interested in urban environmental and energy:
    Level Introductory Introductory Intermediate Intermediate Advanced
    Focus, Skills Policy, Urban History Basic natural science

    Policy, Sustainability, Land-use Planning

    Policy, Planning, Sustainability Economics, Policy
  2. Students interested in sustainable urban food production

    Level Introductory Introductory Intermediate Intermediate Advanced
    Focus, Skills Policy, Urban History Environmental Science, Policy Agriculture, Food Systems, Urban Planning Policy, Planning, Sustainability Environmental Engineering, Economics, Policy
  3. Students interested in urban design and sustainable buildings:

      EARTHSYS 112 CEE 100 URBANST 163 URBANST 164 CEE 176A
    Levels Introductory Introductory Intermediate Intermediate Advanced
    Focus, Skills Policy, Urban History Civil Engineering, Project Management Policy, Sustainability, Land-use Planning Policy, Planning, Sustainability Engineering